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One needs only to look at the folks on TV to tell what looks good, and more importantly, what doesn't. If you find yourself not hearing what the person is saying because of what he or she is wearing, then it's probably because the clothes are wrong. So, just to make it easy, here are some simple guidelines for clothing, accessories, and makeup when you are on camera. This applies to whether you are presenting information, or answering questions. So let's take a look at clothes.
I'm a big believer in keeping it simple. Stay with solid colors and earth tones or pastels. You can't go wrong with a blue shirt, it's the most camera friendly color I know, and it conveys trust. A simple patterned shirt can be okay, if you're also wearing a sport coat or jacket. A collared shirt will give you a more tailored look. Ladies may choose a blouse with ruffles or bows for a softer look. The important thing is to dress appropriately for the audience.
Generally, you want to avoid solid red, white, and black, although this isn't as important in the digital age as it was way back in the 20th century. Cameras today can handle these colors better than before, but they can still be a problem for other reasons. For instance, if the red shirt has too much blue in it, it will look purple on camera. And of course, you won't know this, until you wear it on camera. And if the shirt color is the same as the background color, you might look like a floating head.
One way to avoid this problem, especially if you're going into a situation where you don't know what the background will be, is to bring a few different choices of shirts and jackets. Unless you were being paid an endorsement fee, you definitely want to avoid logos that don't relate to you or the company you are representing. And stay away from busy prints and anything with words on it. You don't want things like these to distract viewers from your message. Since most of your on-camera appearing will show you only above the waist, pants color isn't as important as pants comfort.
But if you'll be seen in a long shot, make sure the pants match and the shoes are appropriate. If you will be seen in a long shot, then guys should generally wear socks at least as dark as their pants. When it comes to accessories, simple is best. Big rings, bracelets, and necklaces detract from your message. Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten this. Gentleman, don't make the most memorable part of your presentation your ugly tie.
If you must wear glasses, invest in anti-reflective coating. You want the audience to see your eyes, not a reflection of the lights. An added bonus is that the gaffers and camera people will love you. My rule for makeup on TV: always wear some. At least wear a little powder to reduce the shine that results from oils in your skin. HD video shows everything, including bad make-up. What you may have used on stage or on analog TV won't look good, because it will be too fake.
The good news is that it doesn't take much, less is better than more. The bad news is that it can be expensive. If you want more information on makeup for video, be sure to check out the lynda.com Makeup Techniques course in this On Camera series. Before we end this movie, I'd like to address a technical issue that you need to be aware of. That's microphone placement. If you will be shooting yourself for something like a web chat or a podcast and wearing a clip-on microphone, consider where it will need to be attached.
The sternum area is best. Flimsy material doesn't play nice with clip-on mics. A jacket lapel is great, as is a tie. If you're wearing just a shirt, it's best if it has buttons. The shirt will probably be sturdy enough, and you can more easily hide the mic cord. If there's a news crew or some other production crew, then they will probably take care of this for you. And if you'll be wearing a wireless microphone or even a clip-on mic with a large battery pack, and you need to stand, you'll need a waistband, or a belt for it to hang from.
Otherwise, you just let the battery pack sit in the chair with you. When it comes to clothes, keep it simple. You don't want what you're wearing to be distracting. Wear at least a little makeup to reduce the shine on your face, and remember that you'll quite possibly be wearing a microphone.
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